Rock and broom fans enjoyed an exciting championship match at the Northern Ontario Curling Association’s U21 women’s provincial playdown at the North Bay Granite Club, Friday.
The Kira Brunton rink out of the Sudbury Curling Club, which included 17-year-old Kate Sherry of North Bay as vice, rallied twice from two-rock deficits to enter the 10th end tied 5-5 against Idylwylde Golf and Country Club’s Krysta Burns.
The more-veteran Burns, however, held the all-important hammer to finish after blanking the seventh to maintain last shot for a two-point score in the eighth, putting the pressure on the defending regional champs.
Brunton, meanwhile, came through in the ninth with a tough last-shot draw into the left side of the four-foot circle for a pair, garnering applause from behind the glass with fans pleased she knotted the game for one more end.
In preliminary round action, Brunton went 4-0, including a tight 7-6 victory over Burns that required an extra end to finish. With this being Burns last season at the junior level, she wanted a third chance at the nationals after earning berths in 2014 and 2015.
It was a challenging game from the beginning with little curl to be found on a relatively flat sheet. Both sides struggled at the beginning to find their weight and then appeared to lose it again at the end.
But Megan Smith came up big for the Burns rink in the 10th end, her red rock squeezing through two opposing guards for a double take-out of Brunton’s blue stones. Worth noting, Smith was the skip and Brunton the vice for Team Northern Ontario last year where they went undefeated in the consolation round after not making it into the top three.
With a pair of reds sitting pretty at the back and another up front inside the four foot, Brunton called a time out to confer with coach Chris Johnson. She then took out the top rock, forcing Burns to either do the same or try to plant another third rock in the house.
Burns chose wisely, replacing the blue rock with her red, and Brunton had to call the second time out for more advice.
With the flat ice, she tried to draw to a tight spot near the button for a possible steal if Burns faltered. Her shot, however, lost steam early and no amount of sweeping could get it into the circle as it fell short.
“I was standing there preparing to throw and I definitely thought she’d make her last one, so I had to get mentally ready, but it was a huge relief not having to throw that one,” Burns said afterward, adding her team was focussed on going to the Canadian junior finals in Victory, B.C. Jan. 21-29.
“This has been our team’s goal for this whole year, everything has been building up to this,” she said. “This is my last year in juniors so this is just the cherry on top being able to go to the nationals once again. This year we think it’s really our year to shine and we’re hoping to medal there, that’s our goal.”
Burns said Team Brunton is solid competition and it could have gone either way.
“We went 1-1 with them this week, we just got lucky to happen to win the right one. They are great team, either one of us would have been excellent representatives and we’re happy to have such good competition in Northern Ontario.”
Sherry, who joined the Sudbury CC team three years ago when Smith aged-out of bantam, said “it was a great experience playing at home … It’s really nice to know the whole city is behind you.”
The Gr. 12 student at Widdifield Secondary School shouldered some of the responsibility for the loss.
“I had a hard time finding draw weight that game, I just couldn’t make the shots in the 10th end,” she said.
Sherry said it’s tough to lose but the focus will quickly shift to the U18 Region 5 playdown next weekend in Copper Cliff to qualify for the provincials in Longlac Feb. 23-26. The U18 nationals are in Moncton, New Brunswick April 17-22.
She said all the time on the road preparing to be the U21 representative for NOCA again has been worth the investment.
“Just getting to play against some really high level curlers, it’s a great experience to grow and learn as a curler,” Sherry said, adding the “camaraderie” of curling helps make it fun
“As much as I love the sport for itself, I love how you can be best friends with the people off the ice even if they are your opponents. Everyone is there to support you,” she said.